You Give Them Something to Eat

Audio here.

Video of the Divine Service here.

Bulletin here.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

For pastors, attending the ordinations or installations of other pastors is sort of like when normal people go to weddings. If you go to a wedding and you’ve never been married before, you might begin to imagine what your own wedding and marriage will be like. If you’re married, you listen to the words and the promises, and you think back over your own marriage, back to your own wedding, and you think about mistakes you made, maybe you need to confess some sins and be forgiven, maybe you are refreshed in your commitment to each other, and you resolve to do better. Maybe if you’ve been married, but aren’t anymore, there are feelings of guilt, or anger, or suffering that rise up.

All those feelings might rise up in you when you attend weddings and it’s similar when pastors attend ordinations or installations. We, too, think back over our work, back to our own ordination or installation. This past week, I attended the ordination and installation of Pierce Chadburn as pastor in Odessa and Marlin. And the promises he made reminded me of my own ordination, which happened 11 years ago today. 11 years ago, I was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry, and so it’s a reminder of the promises I made then, and the promises I made at my installation here.

There were questions and answers like these:

Do you acknowledge that the Lord has called you through His Church into the ministry of Word and Sacrament?

RI do.

PDo you believe and confess the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice?

RYes, I believe and confess the canonical Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

PDo you believe and confess the three Ecumenical Creeds, namely the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds, as faithful testimonies to the truth of the Holy Scriptures, and do you reject all the errors which they condemn?

RYes, I believe and confess the three Ecumenical Creeds because they are in accord with the Word of God. I also reject all the errors they condemn.

PDo you confess the Unaltered Augsburg Confession to be a true exposition of Holy Scripture and a correct exhibition of the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church? And do you confess that the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Small and Large Catechisms of Martin Luther, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, and the Formula of Concord—as these are contained in the Book of Concord—are also in agreement with this one scriptural faith?

RYes, I make these Confessions my own because they are in accord with the Word of God.

PDo you promise that you will perform the duties of your office in accordance with these Confessions, and that all your preaching and teaching and your administration of the Sacraments will be in conformity with Holy Scripture and with these Confessions?

RYes, I promise, with the help of God.

PWill you faithfully instruct both young and old in the chief articles of Christian doctrine, will you forgive the sins of those who repent, and will you promise never to divulge the sins confessed to you? Will you minister faithfully to the sick and dying, and will you demonstrate to the Church a constant and ready ministry centered in the Gospel? Will you admonish and encourage the people to a lively confidence in Christ and in holy living?

RYes, I will, with the help of God.

PFinally, will you honor and adorn the Office of the Holy Ministry with a holy life? Will you be diligent in the study of Holy Scripture and the Confessions? And will you be constant in prayer for those under your pastoral care?

RI will, the Lord helping me through the power and grace of His Holy Spirit. [Lutheran Service Book: Agenda, 178-179]

And then the congregation is also asked a couple questions:

PBeloved in the Lord, Holy Scripture says, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

PYou have heard the solemn promise of him called to be your pastor. Will you receive him, show him that love, honor, and obedience in the Lord that you owe to the shepherd and teacher placed over you by your Lord Jesus Christ, and will you support him by your gifts and pray for him always that in his labors he may retain a cheerful spirit and that his ministry among you may be  abundantly blessed? If so, then answer: We will, with the help of God.

CWe will, with the help of God.

P Will you honor and uphold your pastor as he serves Christ in all his God-pleasing responsibilities? Will you aid him as he cares for his family? Will you be diligent to “put the best construction on everything,” recognizing that “love covers a multitude of sins”? If so, then answer: We will, with the help of God.

C We will, with the help of God. [Lutheran Service Book: Agenda, 180]

So as we are reminded at weddings of promises made, so we are reminded at installations of promises made. Both husbands and wives make vows, and both pastors and people make promises. And we are reminded of how we should live together, serve and love one another. We always have opportunity to confess and for God to deliver to us once again His forgiveness in Christ. We can be refreshed in our commitment to one another and resolve to serve better and love better.

When I attend ordinations or installations, this story that we heard from Mark’s Gospel is the source of my blessing for the newly ordained or installed. Jesus looks out over the huge crowd and He has compassion on them because they are like sheep without a shepherd. So even though His disciples haven’t had time to eat because of the crowd, even though He hasn’t had time to eat, Jesus takes time to teach them many things.

His disciples come to Him and say, “Send the people away to buy food for themselves in the surrounding towns and villages.” But Jesus says to them, “You yourselves give them something to eat.” You yourselves give them something to eat. But what do the disciples have to give them? They don’t have enough time, energy, money, or food to even make a beginning. Five loaves and two fish won’t get far even among the Twelve, let alone among 5,000-plus.

But Jesus takes the fish and loaves and looks up to heaven, blesses them, breaks them, and gives them to the disciples. Then the disciples give them to the people sitting in groups on the green grass. The word is something like “banqueting groups”; literally, it means “to drink together.” They are settled in banqueting groups, and the disciples start handing out bread and fish among them. And then they hand out more. And they never run out. They have a never-ending source of food as Jesus gives them the blessed gifts.

And the people don’t just get a snack. They eat until they are full. They are completely satisfied, all of them. And not only are the thousands of people satisfied, but the Twelve pick up twelve baskets of food, one for each of them. Enough—and more than enough—for everyone. The word for “satisfied” or “filled up” is related to the word for “grass.” Like cattle or sheep feeding in a field, there is more than enough pasture. Yahweh is my Shepherd, I shall not want. I shall be completely satisfied! He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He satisfies me. He spreads a table for me in the presence of my enemies.

In the middle of that place that is called “desolate” or “wilderness” three times in this passage, Jesus makes them all to recline on green grass. So He does: in the wilderness of a world full of sin, death, and unbelief, He plants banqueting groups of 50 or 100 and He feeds them. And He gives everything to His disciples to give to the people. He puts pastors among His people in order to give them what those pastors do not have of themselves. Everything they give to the people is something they have been given by Christ, the Good Shepherd. They literally have nothing worthwhile to give except what the Lord has given them first.

I don’t know about you, but if my refrigerator is full or I’m at a restaurant, I’m probably not choosing bread and fish. But if you are hungry, simple bread and fish might be the best meal you’ve ever had. The gifts of Jesus are not spectacular to human eyes, but simple. To those who hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Jesus, there is nothing better than His Word, His forgiveness, His death and resurrection, His body and blood, the Bread that has come down from heaven to give life to the world. Simple, but satisfying, and nothing else can satisfy us. Enough, and more than enough, for everyone: for people, for pastors; for you, for me.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.

– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 7/20/18

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